Sunday, 23 June 2013

Born Free Range, the second batch cometh!

Loved this display of books by Nottingham Trent University Students

Hello all. I must begin by apologising for the rant that is to follow, but it's for your own good graduates & if I didn't care I would't say it.  These are the things that everyone bemoans & no-one puts out there, so I have taken it upon myself to have a minor rant, followed by a selection of works that caught my eye on Thursday for various reasons. Many upon closer inspection need some pointers on self promotion, presentation & even grammar checks on their website - but these are the things that can be tweaked quickly. For now I just want to applaud all the graduates for getting this far. Now the real work begins....

Part 1. The RANT:

This is a shout-out for COMMON SENSE!!!! 

Photography, art, life, is all about communication. 

In order to communicate with your chosen medium remember the image needs to speak its concept visually - if no one can decipher this from looking at it why make a picture at all?

Having trawled through the Free Range website I was astounded at the lack of consistency with regard to gaining info & images. (Photography graduates without an image on their page SERIOUSLY!) This has made the writing of this blog to be akin to the speed of a sloth on valium trying to climb a tree - VERY VERY SLOW! As a result I don't have time to write lots about each photographer. Had more info been available I would have written much more...

What I've come up with is a list of comments, interspersed with ideas & advice that arose from my Free Range experience. Take it or leave it - but remember I say it with love.... 

Rules of engagement:

1. Put ALL of your info out there wherever you show up, lead your audience to you, do not expect them to find you, they will loose interest & look at something/someone else/s work/s. (I am having to look up some of the websites as the info is not consistently on the Free Range site - bad practice people, start as you mean to go on - be professional)
ie: Website/ Twitter / Linkedin / email / get the idea! Tumblr is not deemed professional though, so if you don't have a website get one!

2. Display - standards must be set high. If you've ever heard the phrase 'less is more' or 'Quality over quantity' take it on board. I won't name & shame but this made me both sad & angry:

Longest caption ever on my blog so far...
A horribly crinkled print that needed dry mounting, behind a window mount (which was the wrong size) that looked like it had been cut with a butter knife, with no glass in the frame & pencil lines all over the wall. It was shocking, distracting & disappointing. 

3. Artists statements / writing on your website : You are not a writer, so if you have to get someone who is to write the text for you or a t least get several people to read what you have written. I often see a car crash of grammatical errors, coupled with 'artspeak' which means nothing & doesn't make you look clever, just pretentious. (For those of you who know me 'juxtaposition' is my least favourite word in the whole world. It is overused & often in the wrong context. Leave it alone. Find another!)

4. If you don't have a website get one! This is your 'shop window' a look into your work, the first glance, use it or loose your audience! Once the work comes off the wall how else can you be found? (I could do a whole blog on websites but this is for another time...) It's so much easier now, you can do it yourself or (if you are a bit flush) pay someone else to do it for you. 

Now for something completely different...

Part 2. Some work that caught my eye

The work I found interesting, only some of it as time is pressing. I didn't see absolutely everything & its not advisable to try to in one go as there is a lot to digest, but here goes...

©Theodore Deproost
Film Still #04
What He Thought She Didn’t See - An Unmade Film.

I like the concept of An Unmade Film as a visual narrative waiting for the insertion of a story by the viewer. It could be argued that this happens a lot with many staged photographs, but Theordore Deproost's lighting techniques & dramatic scenes begged for a script & made for engaging viewing. I was ready to cast the film. That reminds me I must get Gary Oldman & Tim Roth on the blower...

©Benjamin Skerratt
Untitled 2

Another series which abandons traditional narrative was Benjamin Skerratt's portraits with faces turned away from the camera. This image feels as if something monumental is about to happen. Then I realised what it reminded me of:

Caspar David Friedrich
The Wanderer above the mists

Whether this was intentional or not doesn't matter to me. For a graduate work to conjure up this painting is enough for me. The determination of the mans face is present even though you cannot see it through the stance & posturing of the figure. We enter Skerratt's  subconscious through his lens & his subjects actions, refreshing. 

©Chrissy Boddy

I was drawn to this work firstly by its display in a white square tray frame (without glass) exposing the prints to the elements, which suited the imagery discussing the cyclical fragile notions of nature & nurture on a global scale. Chrissy Boddy's images are circles within circles, twisted to take them out of sync with each other & positioned to show the interconnectedness of the themes both physically & psychologically. Made me think of the film The Tree of Life.

Be Still
5x4" C-type print

Emily Moya Addis' work emulates Victorian values, depicting haunting images inspired by a story title The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman - a cautionary tale about a woman descending into madness. (Well worth the read) Victorian notions of power, control & female hysteria whilst 'remaining still' are displayed with visual dexterity, small & perfectly formed. 

Anatomiae - Leporidae

I couldn't resist this, as again I am reminded of a great painting (the first that I was fascinated with after being given a book on Rembrandt aged 6) The Anatomy Lesson whereby the layers of skin stripped back reveal the muscles of a mans arm. 

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp
It works. I look forward to seeing what comes next from Rouse... 

From one sculptural theme to another, I was pleasantly surprised she I saw Jenny Wickens  photograms. The lovely tension created by the physical reality of the potted plants with the realisation that the 'shadows' were in fact photogrsams & did not match the plant placed upon them works beautifully. 

©Gemma Pepper

Gaol / Untitled 3

Using objects & spaces inside the Galleries of Justice Museum in Nottingham - a once woking prison - Gemma Pepper's work with chalky tones upon first glance barely read as photographs. These are are constructed environments made from fictional spaces which are now used as interactive teaching tools. The real is made unreal again with harmonious results.

So now its time to take a deep breath & go out into the big bad world. The tools you need are out there, just use common sense & you can't go far wrong.

Discussing your work with others is important & ultimately useful for the future as you meet other artists, curators, press & galleries. If you attend/exhibit at exhibition events & festivals having confidence to speak eloquently about your work & practice is an invaluable tool.

With L A Noble Gallery's forthcoming Summer Salon exhibition at Maybe a Vole in Dalston we will be conducting salon evenings (with a limit to 8 people per evening session from 6.30pm - 8.30pm - £12). The gallery invites each attendee to bring one of their photographs to talk about for 5 - 10 minutes each. The group headed up by yours truly will discuss the photographs & compare ideas in the traditions of the great salons of the 1930's. To book a place for the first salon on Tuesday July 23rd email 

Why not join us, practice your networking & public speaking skills, pick up tips & take your practice to the next level.

Places will be reserved on a first come first served basis. 

Throughout the exhibition personal Portfolio reviews can also be booked. These can be to focus on your work at all stages of completion, with advice on editioning, pricing & career development. Each review is bespoke to your needs at every level. For more details see this link. To book please email - be sure to include a contact telephone number.

Address during exhibition, please do not send post to this address:
L A Noble Gallery 
c/o Maybe a Vole 
51 King Henrys Walk, N1 4NH

Remember I don't bite, so please feel free to post comments! 



  1. re "Part 1: The Rant": How can all pictures speak their concepts visually? One of the bases for conceptual or indeed any critical practice is that this is often an impossibility. Why tell new graduates "If no one can decipher this from looking at it why make a picture at all?"

    Photography is as much about the lack and impossibility of communication as it is about communicating successfully.

  2. Regarding 'the rant'......where do the tutors figure in all this?

  3. I am making the point that sometimes pretension can get in the way ...

    Did you see the show?

    The tutors have a responsibility to their students, I know many of them - but the students also have freedom to display their show as they see fit. Having opinions from outside the academic sphere is encouraged by both.

    I've had many emails from students, photographers & tutors applauding the cry for quality control regarding presentation & also those happy to read about how their work was received.

    The main aim of the rant is to help students with some critique & advice. This will hopefully help others in the future make their mark.

  4. Firstly, "How can all pictures speak their concepts visually?" Well, if they don't they aren't very successful pictures, are they? Surely any visual medium should look to circumvent the need for other modes of communication to validate the point it is trying to make. If lengthy statements are needed to decipher the image or images, then those images, I think, fail in their intent.

    Secondly, "the lack and impossibility of communication"? Aren’t all art forms about communication? The point of a creative endeavor is to “…translate personal experience into a collective one, it is very possible and I think the key quest of any art form” (Donovan Wylie). While photography has its limitations, as do all art forms, it is about conveying information, ideas, feelings of one kind or the other. And while I'm all for the testing of boundaries, if a body of work is so conceptual that the concept becomes "an impossibility", I wonder: what is the point of its creation? Even the highlighting of the limits of a medium has to be done in an intelligent, eloquent and comprehensible manner. To me much of the excessively conceptual photography/art smacks of self- indulgence on the part of its creator. Creating work based on some hermetic interior language isn't going to communicate anything, no matter how fantastic the concept seems to the individual producing the work. Communication is based on a shared language, so if an artist is speaking in tongues, they'll only be talking to the other voices in their head, no one else.

    On the role of tutors: Having seen the show mentioned, I wonder how the tutors failed to mention some of the mistakes made in presentation. The image in the blog posting, that shows a badly mounted and framed photo, highlights this precisely. After all, when a final show is put on, it is often the first exposure of that student’s work to a wider audience, and first impressions count. Think also of the reputation of the institution, who wants to be associated with sloppiness? I think it’s just a matter of quality control and offering some guidance to students. And if students aren’t going to get this from their tutors, who are they going to get it from?